In this Book

buy this book Buy This Book in Print
Drawing from legal and extralegal discourse but focusing on imaginative literature, Literary Executions examines representations of, responses to, and arguments for and against the death penalty in the United States over the long nineteenth century. John Cyril Barton creates a generative dialogue between artistic relics and legal history. He looks to novels, short stories, poems, and creative nonfiction as well as legislative reports, trial transcripts, legal documents, newspaper and journal articles, treatises, and popular books (like The Record of Crimes, Defence of Capital Punishment, and The Gallows, the Prison, and the Poor House), all of which were part of the debate over the death penalty. Barton focuses on several canonical figures—James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lydia Maria Child, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Theodore Dreiser—and offers new readings of their work in light of the death penalty controversy. Barton also gives close attention to a host of then-popular-but-now-forgotten writers—particularly John Neal, Slidell MacKenzie, William Gilmore Simms, Sylvester Judd, and George Lippard—whose work helped shape or was in turn shaped by the influential anti-gallows movement. Analyzing the tension between sovereignty and social responsibility in a democratic republic, Barton argues that the high stakes of capital punishment dramatize the confrontation between the citizen-subject and sovereign authority in its starkest terms. In bringing together the social and the aesthetic, Barton shows how legal forms informed literary forms and traces the emergence of the modern State in terms of the administration of lawful death. Thus engaging the politics and poetics of capital punishment, Literary Executions contends that the movement to abolish the death penalty in the United States should be seen as an important part of the context that brought about the flowering of the American Renaissance during the antebellum period and that influenced literature from later in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book’s groundbreaking research and timely argument will be of value to literary scholars, as well as anyone interested in the intersections among law, culture, and the humanities.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. open access View | Download |
  1. Title Page
  2. pp. i-iii
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. Copyright Page
  2. p. iv
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. Epigraph
  2. pp. v-vi
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. Contents
  2. pp. vii-viii
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. ix-15
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. Introduction. The Cultural Rhetoric of Capital Punishment
  2. pp. 1-25
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. 1 Anti-gallows Activism in Antebellum American Law and Literature
  2. pp. 26-58
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. 2 Simms, Child, and the Aesthetics of Crime and Punishment
  2. pp. 59-95
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. 3 Literary Executions in Cooper, Lippard, and Judd
  2. pp. 96-137
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. 4 Hawthorne and the Evidentiary Value of Literature
  2. pp. 138-173
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. 5 Melville, MacKenzie, and Military Executions
  2. pp. 174-224
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. 6 Capital Punishment and the Criminal Justice System in Dreiser’s An American Tragedy
  2. pp. 225-254
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. Epilogue. “The Death Penalty in Literature”
  2. pp. 255-270
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. Notes
  2. pp. 271-320
  3. open access View | Download |
  1. Index
  2. pp. 321-330
  3. open access View | Download |

Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.